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The King is dead... get used to it

Ross Boissoneau - July 6th, 2009
The King is Dead...
... get used to it
By Ross Boissoneau 7/6/09

And in a news flash, Michael Jackson is still dead. So is Anna Nicole Smith.
Yes, it is news that Jackson died so suddenly and mysteriously. But the complete meltdown of the tabloid press – and the not-tabloid press – is so over-the-top as to be ridiculous.
Not that Jackson would have minded. This type of overblown media coverage is something he helped create and fueled. Some, such as Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom, have painted Jackson as a tragic figure alternately celebrated and vilified by our country’s celebrity-mad culture. Which is true enough, but conveniently ignores the culpability of those who feed into it. Such as Wacko Jacko or Anna Nicole Smith, or before them, Elvis.
At some point in time, whether they suffered abuse or overexposure, people have to take responsibility for their own lives and their own actions. By all accounts, Jackson never did. Instead, he holed up in Neverland, or Dubai, or someplace where he could be surrounded by his sycophants and apologists. Who can forget the images of him holding his child outstretched over a balcony, or standing atop a car waving to adoring fans while on trial for child molestation?
While he was found not guilty in that trial, his confession that, as an adult, he found it perfectly acceptable to sleep with children sent shudders through many, though apparently not all. Add to that his bizarre appearances in court, and of course his disfiguring himself through plastic surgery and bleaching agents until he was unrecognizable. For all the musical talent he displayed through his 20s and 30s, the Michael Jackson of the last 10-15 years has been a sideshow, a circus freak.
But you don‘t hear much of that from those bemoaning his sudden death. Instead, they focus on the Jackson of the ‘80s, when he ruled the charts with “Thriller” and “Bad,” or his earlier persona with his brothers, as a pre-teen belting out “I Want You Back” or “ABC.” Great tunes, obviously. And no doubt his music and videos were more responsible than those of any other artist for the integration of MTV.
But again, those showering him with such overpraise are missing the point. Biggest album ever? Yes. Greatest music icon ever? Ummm, well, one of them, maybe. Best or most important musical figure in history?Hardly.While his singing and dancing made him a star, he was far from the greatest at either. In fact, heard today, his vocal histrionics sound distressingly similar from record to record. I’ll take Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, please.
And while he wrote many of his greatest hits, he didn’t play an instrument as does, say, Prince, or Steve Winwood, or Todd Rundgren – all of whom play guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, write, produce and sing, and whose careers are still going strong and will eclipse Jackson’s in terms of longevity.
And if longevity is the greatest single marker of greatness, will Jackson’s music still be played in 20 or 30 or 50 years, like that of Gershwin or Duke Ellington or Count Basie? Or in 200 or 300 years, like that of Bach or Beethoven?
No, while Jackson was a man of his times, those times are 20 years in the rear view mirror. The sad, pathetic, scary person he became is gone now, and we should let him rest in peace.

Ross Boissoneau writes periodically about music for the Express.



 
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